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mentions it as a memorable proof of the extraordipary eloquence of Mark Antony, when soldiers were sent to kill him, that he pleaded for his life in such affecting language, that he totally disarmed them of their resolution, and melted them into tears. But these officers are vanquished, not by the forcible arguments of a man pleading for his life, but by hearing one of the ordinary discourses of our Lord, not particularly directed to them, but to the people at large, which is a circumstance much more remarkable. They returned to their employers in amazement, and without attempting an apology for their failure, they broke out into the pathetic language of the text, Never man spake like this man !
The observation they made upon our Lord's discourse was certainly just, and imported more than they were aware of, and what we are better able than they were to express. They heard him but once, and that perhaps not for an hour, but how many
of his discourses, committed to writing by men inspired of God, and handed down to us, have we read and heard : and if we heard them with understanding, and mixed them with faith, we have much more reason than they had to say, Never man spake like this man!
In order that we may more fully perceive the reason of this, and learn still more highly to prize his heavenly teaching, let us consider and illustrate the following observation :
Jesus Christ is incomparably the greatest and best teacher the world ever knew.
It is fit and becoming, “that in all things He may have the pre-eminence ;" for he is the first and the last, the Almighty. In every character that he assumes, which, for the sake of our feeble minds, is compared to something human, he discovers infinite superiority, for he is the source of all that is excellent and admirable in the best of those
human characters to which he condescends to be compared : and weil may it be allowed that he spake as never man spake, who himself made man's mouth, endowed him with the admirable faculty of speech, and who furnished the finest orators in the world with all their most brilliant talents.
Is he, for instance, a King ?--Yes, he is “the King of kings, and the Lord of lords,” and his kingdom ruleth over all; his reign is the most pa-cific; his subjects are the most happy ; his government the most equitable ; his influence the most extended ; and his kingdom that which shall never have an end.
Is he a Priest?-Yes; but far greater than Aaron. Jesus offered a sacrifice, but it was only once; it was once for all ; a sacrifice, that needed no repetition, like that of ordinary priests, but it was at once a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, not for Jews only, but for all of every country and in every age who shall believe on him.
Is he a Prophet ?-Yes; and such a one as the world never before heard. “God, at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the ordinary prophets,' and among them, we highly venerate the names of Moses and Abraham, Isaiah and Elijah, and John. But a greater than any of these is here ; and if we regard this holy prophet aright, we shall have good cause to say, Never man spake like this man! And this will plainly appear if you consider three things.
The Matter--the Manner--and the Effect of his Instructions.
Let us first consider the Matter of his instructions. What was it that he taught? And here we shall find none of that wretched trifling, which dis. tinguished the scribes, and pharisees, and rabbies, among the Jews, some specimens of which our Lord has given in order to expose them. No, our Lord's discourses were grave, solid, and of eternal moment ; for instance,
He truly revealed the divine character. He who was from eternity " in the bosom of the Father," and had an intimate acquaintance with the whole mind and will of God, “he hath revealed him; he hath manifested the divine name and nature to the men who were given him out of the world,” and qualified them to be the instructors of mankind. Doubtless there is more of the true knowledge of God displayed in one single discourse of our divine Redeemer, than in all the volumes composed by
Again, He fully explained the Will of God, as revealed, long before, in the moral law. In the ten commandments, we have the will of God in epitome—we have “the root of the matter ;” but in the discourses of Christ,' we have the spiritual meaning and extent of the law-we have the lofty tree, with all its extended branches. The Jews had the law, but it was miserably expounded to them by their teachers, who not only dwelt chiefly on its outward rites and ceremonies, neglecting the weightier matters, but by their wretched traditions set aside the design of it. With what authority did our Lord correct these dangerous mistakes, and point out the true and spiritual meaning of the law, particularly in his Sermon on the Mount. We find him also insisting upon the spiritual na, ture of that worship which God requires, and which alone he will accept. He shewed that it was not merely worshipping in the holy place at Jerusalem, nor the mere use of divinely appointed means, but that God, who is a Spirit, must be worshipped in spirit and in truth ; that the washing of the outside of the cup and the platter was of little moment: he insisted upon the religion of the heart; he shewed the necessity of private prayer, of closet devotion, and of a purity of motive in all our religious actions; he shewed that the kingdom of
heaven came not with observation and outward shew, as the Jews expected, but that it was of an internal nature, and consisted in peace and righteousness and joy in the Holy Ghost; he shewed men that love is the very essence of true religion-love to God and love to man; and how admirable were, our Lord's precepts with regard to the love of our neighbour! In his parable of the good Samaritan, he shews that we ought even to treat our enemies with kindness, and melt them down by acts of friendship.
But especially did the superiority of our Lord's preaching appear in the display he made of the divine mercy, of the love of God to sinfúl men, in the gift of his only begotten Son, who came into our world to die for them! With what heartcheering words did he open his commission at Nazareth, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” The prophets usually came to men with heavy tidings, called, The burden of the Lord, denouncing curses upon the disobedient; but our blessed Lord opened his mouth with blessings upon the poor, the meek, the mourners, the pure in heart, and even on those who were persecuted for righteousness sake-characters far from being generally deemed happy: and how divinely sweet and consolatory were the gracious sayings that dropped from his lips—such as ci the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost,"_" the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many”—“Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest”-" If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.”
Again, Jesus unveiled the invisible and eternal world. Hitherto little had been disclosed. The patriarchs indeed sought a better country than Canaan-a heavenly world, yet they were not favoured with such a discovery of its excellencies and glories as was made by the mouth of Jesus, who came down from heaven on purpose to direct men thither. By him the immortality of the soul was fully and plainly asserted. “ Fear not them,” said he, " who can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” He plainly taught the nature of the future world, and the existence of the soul in a separate state from the body, as when he said to the penitent thief on the cross, " This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” He taught the final separation of those characters who are united in the visible church-the wheat and the tares-the good and bad fishes--the wise and the foolish virgins, a separation of whom shall be made in the great day. But,
II. The superiority of our Lord's instruction appears in the Manner, as well as in the matter of it.
He taught more clearly than any one who had gone before him. The gospel truths which were revealed in the Old Testament, were described as " shadows of good things to come,” but the body is Christ. The writings of the prophets are frequently obscure, for they themselves were imperfectly acquainted with the import of their own prophecies; but our Lord's teaching was like a morning without clouds, like the rising of the sun, with healing in his wings. The light of the Gospel broke through the obscurity of the law. How sweetly familiar were the instructions of our Lord in parables ; in the manner of fables, he conveyed the great truths of religion-a pleasing mode of instruction, well adapted to both classes of his hearers : for the teachable easily perceived the drift of his discourses, or if they knew it not, they humbly asked to be informed; while those proud